Space Pirate Captain Harlock – The Power To Save Yourself

I seem to be finishing a lot of things this well. With this post, I finally discussed all the Captain Harlock anime out there. Well, besides the CG film that I’ve seen before, that really isn’t something that I am interested in writing about at all. Maybe some other day. This is the last Captain Harlock title and it’s so sad because this is just a cool series. Each one of them are not attached to each other perhaps, but carry a lot of similar ideas and themes in some unique ways that makes them feel like they belong with each other. It is also just really cool to dig into the Leiji-Verse more because Leiji Matsumoto is someone that doesn’t seem bound by space and time at all. I guess I will have to do Galaxy 999 at some point. Possibly the films because the series is just so long and I don’t have the time to watch it right now.

The Setting of Captain Harlock

Captain Harlock is a series that takes place very far in the future of 2977 AD. So very, very far in the future and somehow humanity has survived that long. Or can you call it surviving right now? Most of the People living on Earth are passionless people that couldn’t be more apathetic if they tried. The one only people who do, the crew of the Arcadia led by Captain Harlock, are those who carry on the passion that people of the Earth used to have. They are treated like outlaws by the people of the Earth and it feels like the only passion humankind has is keeping Captain Harlock from returning to the Earth even if he can just do that anyway. 

All of which is very interesting considering that an alien species of hot plant women, the Mazone, want to take over the Earth for themselves. A majority of the people do not care or believe any of the scientists who figured out the Mazone already have taken over parts of Earth. Especially the leader of the Earth who cares more about him maintaining his spot then doing anything to benefit the Earth in anyway. (This sounds familiar somehow. Hmmm.) So there is a larger wedge placed onto people who are not a part of the apathy club. Daichi Tadashi is a son of scientists that discovered the threat, but have been murdered by the Earth Government to the point that he has no other place to go but the Arcadia led by Captan Harlock.

The Structure of Captain Harlock 

Like a lot of older series back in the day, Captain Harlock is mostly an episodic adventure and/or planet of the week sort of series. Yes, there is an overall story as Captain Harlocka and his 42 crew mates travel from place to place and fight the Mazone to save the Earth. Some of them are episodes directly facing against the Mazone. Others are dealing with matters on Earth centered on Captain Harlock’s dead friend’s daughter Mayu. One kid that is tortured for even knowing Captain Harlock sometimes, but is the main reason Captain Harlock would ever return to Earth. Even Mazone notices this eventually and they use Mayu against him. 

Besides some of the last episodes that are a direct conflict between Harlock and the Mazone, it is easy to just watch whatever episode you want and then enjoy the finale. Not that I would ever recommend doing that, because most of the episodic stories are so good. The series hais a build up as the series goes along generally, but some of that could be missed. There is a cast on the Arcadia that are there to be explored because of them are drifters that have had their own story on why they made it to the Arcadia. The difference is how Captain Harlock treats its characters. Not just the show, but the very Captain himself.

Inside the Arcadia and Daichi

The one way that Daichi is used in the beginning of Captain Harlock is showing off the ship from an outside perspective. So essentially the point of view character who is the latest addition into the crew of the Arcadia so we see how everyone got there. It’s true. He is the one who has to get used to life and seeing all of these people in the hallway playing Go, drinking, or lazing around doing nothing just to spend their time. Daichi is the person who is shocked by this at first, until he realizes that the Arcadia isn’t just a warship, but a home and people at home should do whatever they like to take time off before getting to work. It’s simple, but effective stuff.

Then afterwards, Daichi is treated as a joke. Or possibly Captain Harlock’s damsel in distress. It is such a weird transition to see this point of view character change into someone who doesn’t understand anything because it makes Daichi seem stupid. It is a very interesting direction to have this character tricked by the Mazone as Arcadia’s weakpoint time and time again. Or he is this hateful forced character that has screen time taken away from him or given it to him from time to time. No one else on the ship is treated like this because all of them have a lot of respect. I’m so curious about this choice because it doesn’t sit right with me.

Other Character Stories (Humans and Mazone)

I don’t think there will ever be a person like Captain Harlock in anime ever again. He is a one of a kind sort of character that could never be created. He carries a lot of interesting and complex morales in him in how he treats different characters too. That is how the characters’ stories are treated. He isn’t the kind of person that will solve all a person’s problems for them. He is the kind of character that will listen to you if you are sad, but also give you a gun or a tool to solve your problem knowing that the person he gave the tool to has the inner strength to solve the problems they are in themselves. 

Each of the cast’s stories are different because each of them have had different lives and each story has their own sort of drama. The biggest one is obviously the lone other alien in the crew, Mime who lives on alcohol and is the only one left from her planet due to Mazone’s genocide on the planet itself. Or Kei, the chief navigator andis really cool, who has a very Japanese twinge to it and it’s great. Such an aesthetic. Daiba…well…we know something about him. But the sad tales of the model building second in command is a bit cliched, but the stories of the chief engineer and the doctor are great. I really like the crew of the Arcadia.

The fact that all of these are put together in ways that tell the story of the Mazone and other things that really exemplify so many things put onto them too. It shows how awful and manipulative the Mazone could be to get to the crew of the Arcadia. Even the civilians of the Mazone are not treated well by the larger Mazone military forces who don’t want anything to do with the conflict currently in motion. Yes, the Mazone themselves are shown to not just be villains, but there are layers and decisions made to show that not everyone on the Mazone fleet are like that and that is a nuance I didn’t expect the show to fully, even if it’s small, for 1978.

The Mysterious Captain Harlock Himself

How can you not talk about Captain Harlock without talking about the man, myth, and legend himself. He is such a very cool enigma of a person that feels really simple on the outside but as you see more of him, you just want to know what is guiding him. The simplicity is about how he is a person that has softness to him despite everything he stands for and the endless amount of gar that he has inside him to keep going. Harlock cares about his crew even though he trusts them to do what they need to do and find their motivation. 

He also has the soft spot of the cutest anime girl, Mayu who is one of the toughest little kids around too who has endured so much throughout the series as she is taken away and stolen so many times. This guy who has the hardest person who sticks to his morals on how he lives with honor, and this is the weak spot for him and it’s just so good to me. This is the very essence of Captain Harlock who is a soft person that trusts people and never judges people with hate, even the Mazone, unless they truly deserve it for betraying their own people. Harlock doesn’t even have a grudge for the people of the Earth for hating him for so long because he still tries to save it with his whole heart and soul.

The capacity of hope that Captain Harlock has is unbreakable no matter how hard he is pushed. The Queen of the Mazone people doesn’t understand compassion despite being on the top of her world with the largest fleet possible at the top of the world there that listen to her. Yet her hate is so strong that nothing gets in her way and she has to make ever cut possible to achiever her goals. Captain Harlock is never the person to take the easy choices and he pays dividends because he makes all the connections he has to make everything work. Once again, I think there is never going to be a person like Captain Harlock ever again. 

How Captain Harlock Hasn’t Aged Well

There are not a lot of things that I can say haven’t held up well, but there are some small points here and there that really urk me in 2022. The first one is in the beginning where a guy complains about the men, not even the women, living on Earth right now. It is ok to call the men cowardly because there are a lot of people on Earth focusing on what they already have and holding onto that instead of dreaming for a future that could be. But then there are people mentioning how these cowardly men are wearing women’s clothing because nothing about this is necessary at all for the story it’s trying to tell and isn’t even shown if they wanted to go that far. It is a small passing moment that could be skipped, but it’s still there.

Then there are the female characters. In general, Captain Harlock treats the show’s women very well compared to a lot of shows from that era because they are very well written and exceptionally well rounded while coming from different ages and backgrounds. Then why does Captain Harlock have to say Kei is an officer on the ship “despite being a woman”. It’s so unnecessary and it still upsets me even if it’s just a passing line said only once. Then we could about the race of alien women, the Mazone, but I think there are plusses and minuses to Leiji Matsumoto choosing them. The one episode where one young girl and one young boy have to repopulate a planet is so much worse than that. A lot of issues are very short and probably won’t be noticed or remembered by most people in passing. Not me though. Can’t fool me at all.

Wrapping up Captain Harlock

The last things that I have to talk about are the visuals. In terms of animation, Captain Harlock has aged a lot. Lots of shots of animation and other things don’t look as good as some cool moments of animation here and there. But the Arcadia is a fantastic design and so are the fighters and the Mazone ships too. The animation behind the space battles can be lacking.The character designs are very classic Leiji Matsumoto too which means people look like Captain Harlock, potato people, and/or the female designs look the same with some slight differences. But the direction of each episode of Captain Harlock to get the maximum emotional impact. Really cool shots with interesting framing and design that are so good. Same with the space battle scenes that are very harrowing despite the lack of major animation behind the show.

Captain Harlock is still an amazing show with so many things to say about humanity, people, and other things in general regarding human life. It is a very special 42 episode anime series that has become another favorite series for me. Probably in my top 20 or 30 shows and since I’ve watched over a 1,000 shows now, that means almost everything. The journey is excellent, whether it’s the characters journey or just the journey that it takes its audience on. It’s so well written and put together that I think Captain Harlock will stand the rest of the time, mostly, for who knows how long. If you have the time and space for it in your watch schedule, please check it out. 

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